National Catholic Reporter
Subscribers only section
March 7, 2008


Bozek and Burke

A Catholic for over 70 years, I was disturbed by the article regarding Fr. Marek Bozek (NCR, Feb. 22). What is the church coming to? Laypeople in charge of finances, women priests receiving blessings, gay and divorced people being accepted. It’s so like ... something Jesus would do. As I read the article, I felt as though I was reading the Gospel in modern times. The Pharisees upholding law; Jesus and his followers living love. It made me wonder how the hierarchy would rule if this were Jesus instead of Fr. Bozek. Would he be excommunicated for saving the prostitute from certain death, for eating with tax collectors, for speaking with the woman at the well, for giving the message of his resurrection to a woman first? Jesus reached out to those who were marginalized as well as to the rich, and he loved them. What is Fr. Bozek doing that Jesus would condemn? If the facts have been reported accurately, then perhaps Jesus is standing beside Fr. Bozek, encouraging him to reach out and embrace all those in his care with love.

Manchester, Conn.

* * *

Archbishop Raymond Burke is a bully. St. Stanislaus Polish Church was independent of the St. Louis archdiocese for many years. Negotiations had been worked through during previous archdiocesan administrations for the Polish church to be part of the Roman Catholic church. When Archbishop Burke arrived, he bullied his way into the negotiations and is attempting to force a takeover of St. Stanislaus and the prize of $9 million, since the St. Stanislaus community has been hardworking and frugal. Archbishop Burke’s actions have attempted to divide the community and to intimidate. These are not the actions of a shepherd, which a bishop is called to be. It would be in the better interest of the St. Louis church to clean its own house and defrock the dozens of sexually abusive Catholic priests than to pursue a priest with good intentions, good actions and a strong community.

O’Fallon, Ill.

A challenging article

“Did Hitler think he was doing good?” asks a Catholic question embedded in a moral theology developed for priests who had to decide the kind and gravity of each specific act or omission they heard in the sacrament of penance, and who were told to investigate both whether the penitent’s personal behavior actually was sinful and, if so, how seriously sinful it was. In this setting, “sin” was described as a person’s aware, free refusal to obey God’s laws. Today many Catholics with whom I have spoken have no other understanding of what sin means, and they dismiss impassioned papal teachings about “social sin” as mere metaphor.

In no way can they apply the judgment “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” to people who act in any of the ways mentioned by Jesus in the last judgment described in Matthew 25. Ignoring those without sufficient food or potable drinking water does not fit the Catholic definition of “mortal sin.” I propose that we expand our examination of conscience to include reflection on our complicity in great harm done to ourselves, others and God’s creation.

Mount Vernon, Ohio

Defending John Dear

This is in response to Jesuit Fr. Mark Hallinan’s observation in his letter to the editor (NCR, Feb, 8) that he, unlike Fr. John Dear, “lives in a real world where things are not so clear-cut, not black or white, good or evil.” I’m sure Fr. John Dear is well aware it’s not a black-and-white world, with clear-cut issues. So is Jesus Christ. The world was not black and white at Gethsemane. He could have chosen to hunker down in the garden, arm his apostles and disciples to the teeth and put up quite a fight. He might have even been able to kill that kissing Judas. Instead, he put down the sword, and that’s what John Dear is all about too. Fr. Hallinan has every right to shape his actions the way he wants to in a world that is not black and white, but don’t try to reshape the actions of Jesus.

Glenview, Ill.

* * *

Poor Fr. John Dear. All he did was to put in a plug for peace and for that he got clobbered, even by one of his own confreres. I don’t see how anyone can claim the reason for the military is to keep peace. I served in the armed forces, but during my training and later in the harangues by leaders nobody spoke about methods to implement peace. The emphasis was on the best way to dispose of the enemy. I was trained to kill. Obviously, since the military is a war-making machine and thus an obstacle to the creation of a peaceful world, it must be considered an institution to be phased out. I know Fr. Mark Hallinan believes, for instance, that the only way to solve the conflict in Darfur is to use military force. But that means to use violence against violence, which creates a vicious circle never conducive to a peaceful environment. That method has been tried for millennia. The fact we are still doing it suggests it doesn’t work.

Jesus was a peaceful man. But his path isn’t strewn with fragrant rose petals or sprinkled with drops of refreshing morning dew. On the contrary, it’s abrupt and fraught with danger. There are no springs to quench the thirst of a weary traveler. Yet it’s the only one leading to eternal bliss. If we are to be truly Christian, rather than just pretend to be, let’s emulate Christ by giving peace a chance.

Bear, Del.

Bernard Law

There are times when our vocabulary is too small to convey certain experiences. That was the nauseating, gut-wrenching, jaw-clenching situation I found myself in when I read the headline “Bernard Law’s life in exile,” and saw his “prayerful” photo and the ensuing three-page spread penned by John Allen (NCR, Jan. 25). Bernard Law represents all bishops, past and present, who have sentenced thousands of child and vulnerable adult victims of religious incest to a real and lifelong exile. Exile? A nearly $6,000 monthly paycheck, a cozy apartment, a secretary, and nuns to look after his needs in the heart of Rome doesn’t sound like the exile of biblical proportions. However, the continuing pain, suffering and struggle of those who had to endure the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual traumas of sexual abuse must surely know exile beyond vocabulary. Perhaps NCR could write an article in each coming edition headlined “A clergy abuse survivor’s life in exile.” This would give the paper millennia of upcoming stories.

Fort Loramie, Ohio

* * *

No mention was made that Cardinal Law absconded to Rome just as the attorney general was considering an indictment. No mention was made of the fact that those higher in the chain of command, principally the one who has been put on a fast track toward canonization, were more than equally culpable. The decisions for years of cover-ups were made at the top. In that sense, it could be said that Cardinal Law was a scapegoat.

Plymouth, Mass.

* * *

My one indelible memory of Cardinal Law’s role in the Boston sexual abuse crisis came from a careful reading of his deposition. In that testimony, the cardinal denied having any recollection of a heartfelt letter he received from the mother of a victim of one of his priest’s predations that sought a meeting with his eminence. The irrefutable conclusion I reached that day was that either Cardinal Law was a perjurer or so lacking in compassion and understanding that immediate banishment from his office was necessary and justified. To read that he continues in an influential role from his perch in Rome troubles me greatly.

Folsom, La.

Bishop Braxton

Regarding your article on Bishop Edward Braxton (NCR, Jan. 25), I can only ask, “Has the man no shame?” While he served in the St. Louis archdiocese, I had several opportunities to meet him. I was always touched by his homilies. Obviously he can talk the talk better than he can walk the walk.

Is it any wonder the laity are fleeing from the church? To steal $10,000 in funds from a program established for the benefit of a special ministry for children over the written objections of the foundation board is arrogance beyond belief. When a bishop uses $8,000 to purchase “custom clerical garments,” as quoted from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, from funds intended for the missions, I would call that “vanity of vanities.” I wait in wonder to see whether the Vatican will turn another blind eye to yet another blot on the name of the church.

Washington, Mo.

Dutch solution

Your editorial “From Holland: A refreshing notion” (NCR, Dec. 14), praises the Dutch Dominicans for their proposed solution to priest shortages. The Dutch answer sounds wonderful on the surface, but it does not anticipate at what cost and who would pay. Let’s face it, we Catholics are sinners, and the Dutch solution is not a child’s game of musical chairs. Allowing local communities to choose adults who will sit in the presider’s chair at the eucharistic table may occasion fighting over who will “serve” in that coveted position. The result may be a fractionalized community, especially in a diverse one. Then you are back to square one and the need for a bishop.

Ah, those advanced Dutch. Will their children and their children’s children have to pay for the failed ecclesial experiments of their church fathers and mothers? Would a wine-and-crackers-party meeting in the church lounge every Sunday make the faithful’s life in Christ better nourished spiritually? Will a future, fractionalized Dutch Catholic community pay through the nose for their own lack of prudence and wisdom?

Waterford, Mich.

Letters to the editor should be limited to 250 words and preferably typed. If a letter refers to a previous issue of NCR, please give us that issue’s date. We reserve the right to edit all letters. Letters, National Catholic Reporter, PO Box 411009, Kansas City, MO 64141-1009. Fax: (816) 968-2280. E-mail: (When sending a letter via e-mail, please indicate "NCR Letters" in the subject line. We've installed a new spam filter on our letters e-mail account. If it's not clear to us that yours is a letter, we might delete it.) Please be sure to include your street address, city, state, zip and daytime telephone number

National Catholic Reporter, March 7, 2008